Welcome to our synagogue, Congregation Neveh Shalom, for the livestream celebration of Eliana’s Bat Mitzvah. Due to the current pandemic, only a limited number of guests are allowed in the synagogue. Celebrating Eliana’s milestone virtually is not what we imagined when we started planning her Bat Mitzvah. However, in an effort to make this uncertain time special for our amazing daughter, we are excited for you to participate by streaming the service from the comfort of your home. The presence of our community - family and friends near and far, and members of our synagogue – makes this day even more special. In case you are unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, here are some details that might help you understand the service better. Thank you for being in our lives and for sharing this special simcha (joyous occasion) with us.
The Bat Mitzvah Ceremony
The Hebrew term Bat Mitzvah translates to “Daughter of the Commandment.” According to the Jewish custom, a child assumes responsibility for observing the commandments of the Jewish faith at the age of thirteen. On her Bat Mitzvah morning, Eliana will continue this tradition when she reads from the Torah and chants the Haftarah in Hebrew. Leading the services and reading from the Torah demonstrates a level of mastery of language and traditions. More importantly, becoming a Bat Mitzvah signifies a milestone in Eliana’s life. In preparation for this day, Eliana has spent years in Hebrew school studying Jewish history, laws, customs, values, and prayers. Eliana accepts more responsibility for her actions and embraces the obligations of Jewish life, including observing mitzvot (commandments). These include but are not limited to being counted in the minyan (number required for services), reading from the Torah and performing acts of tzedakah (charity). Eliana’s Bat Mitzvah announces to our kehila (community) that she is now a part of our community and symbolizes the true beginning of her participation in Jewish adult life.
In Our Synagogue
Eliana’s service will take place in our synagogue’s main sanctuary. It is customary for all men, and women who so choose, to cover their heads with a kippah (head covering) as a sign of reverence in a holy place. Jewish adults at all morning services wear a tallit (prayer shawl) as a further reminder of God’s commandments. Look above the Ark to see the Ner Tamid, the eternal light. This light symbolizes the eternal presence of God, the permanence of the Torah and the illumination that knowledge gives. As we pray, we direct our hearts towards Jerusalem, the site of the ancient Temple. The sanctuary’s focal point of prayer is the Aron Kodesh, or Holy Ark. The Ark houses a number of Torah scrolls, the source of Jewish law and tradition. Torah means “teaching.” Each Torah contains the first five books of the Bible, hand lettered in Hebrew on parchment. The Torahs are covered with beautifully designed mantles for protection and adornment. The silver crowns and breastplates are reminiscent of the priestly garb worn during the Temple days. The Torah is divided into 54 portions called parashiyot. One third of a portion is read each week, so that the entire Torah is read over the course of three years. Eliana’s portion is being read today in synagogues around the world, connecting her to the entire Jewish people.
The service will begin streaming live at 9:30 am (PST) from Congregation Neveh Shalom. At this time, the traditional Shabbat morning prayers will be recited. Eliana will begin leading the congregation at the start of the Torah service around 9:50 am.
Here is the link to view the service:
This morning the early parts of the service consist of P’sukei D’Zimra, verses of song/psalms and the more formal Shaharit service chanted by the cantor, which includes the Barhu (call to prayer), the Shema (affirmation of one God), and the Amidah (seven blessings recited silently while standing). The highlight of the Shabbat morning service is the Torah Service. The congregation rises as the Ark is opened and Eliana holds one of the Torah scrolls as she leads prayers. The scroll is then placed on the reading table where it is ceremonially uncovered and the week’s portion is read.
The Shabbat Torah readings are divided into seven divisions plus the Maftir. Reading from the Torah is considered an honor. Some of Eliana’s relatives and friends have been honored with an Aliyah, a calling up to the Torah to recite the traditional blessings prior to and following each Torah reading. Eliana is given the special honor of chanting the final Torah portion or Maftir. Eliana will then chant her Haftarah, a supplemental reading from the Prophets. During a period of persecution 2,000 years ago, Jews were forbidden from reading the Torah, so they instituted a reading from the prophets that corresponds to the theme of that week’s Torah portion. Eliana will be the last one to read from the Torah, after which it is customary to throw candy and sweets onto the bimah, showering the bat mitzvah with “sweetness.” After the Torah is returned to the Ark, Eliana will then share her personal interpretations regarding this week’s Torah portion in a speech or Dvar Torah. The Shabbat service concludes with the Musaf prayers, giving thanks for the gift of Shabbat. Eliana will then lead us in the concluding prayer, Adon Olam.